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Paraphernalia: Florida County Approves Tough New Ordinance

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #457)
Politics & Advocacy

Head shop and paraphernalia store owners in Pinellas County, Florida, are in for a rough ride after the county commission Wednesday gave final approval to a new drug paraphernalia ordinance that will make it easier to win convictions than current Florida law. Under state law, people can only be found guilty of paraphernalia sales if it can be proven they knew the product they sold would be used to ingest drugs. The new county ordinance lowers the bar, requiring only that the seller should reasonably have known such use would occur.

Those convicted under the new county ordinance face up to 60 days in jail and fines of up to $500. Repeat offenders could see their business licenses jerked.

The new law is the result of a county Drug Paraphernalia Abatement Task Force organized by County Commission Chairman Ken Welch last year. The ordinance follows almost letter by letter the recommendations of the task force's report issued in June, which claimed that drug paraphernalia "enabled" drug use.

Opponents of the ordinance showed up at the commission's Wednesday meeting to no avail. According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, among those protesting the ordinance was Kurt Donely, executive director of the Florida NORML chapter. He said the proposed 60-day penalty was too extreme. "I would lose my house, my car," Donely said. "Something would happen to my pets."

Another opponent was Tamara Pare, 23, an employee of Purple Haze Tobacco & Accessories in St. Petersburg. She arrived dressed as a hooker, wearing red heels, a short skirt, and a halter top. Her attire, she said, was "a visual metaphor" that underscored the silliness of the "reasonably should know" standard. "Many reasonable people today might see me dressed like this and think I'm a prostitute," Pare told the board.

Her boss, Leo Calzadilla, spoke via videotape from his store, with shelves of water pipes on display behind him. The ordinance would be aimed at specialty shops like his when items that could be used as drug paraphernalia can be found almost anywhere he said. "This ordinance is going to do nothing but tie up our local courts system," Calzadilla warned.

But commission head Welch was unswayed, although he acknowledged the ordinance would not stop drug use. "It's not going to solve the entire problem," he said. "It's a step in the right direction."

Perhaps Welch and the county commission should be stepping over toward the county attorney's office because it appears it will be busy fending off challenges. "I'm still confused," Alan Berger, 51, co-owner of Balls of Steel in Gulfport, said after the vote. "Should I pull everything off the shelves? I guarantee you, we will fight."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

The hits keep coming in Pinellas County: on the heels of passing the largest property tax increase in the history of the county (while sitting on the largest cash surplus in history), the new paraphernalia ordinance will make it much easier to throw even more people in a jail already overcrowded by 1300 inmates on a nightly basis. 60 days in jail for owning something that could possibly, maybe, someday be used by an adult for personal use of marijuana is tyrannically severe especially considering that according to the latest CNN\Times poll 76% of Americans do not believe adult personal use of marijuana should even be an arrestable offense. With residents carrying record debt now add record taxes, I can’t imagine that after 60 days in jail that many people will still have a house, car, or job thus further draining a local economy that is already collapsing rapidly. In the case of single moms (one of the fastest growing jail population segments) they are likely to lose their children also . All this for something almost half of Pinellas county residents have done (100,000 residents just last year). Considering that in Pinellas County the murder rate skyrocketed by 26% last year while the overwhelming majority of all violent crimes remain unsolved, it would seem to a reasonable person that an adult owning rolling papers should not be the Pinellas Board of County Commissioner’s highest priority. Prior to California decriminalizing personal use of marijuana and making medical marijuana available to people struggling with Cancer, HIV\AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease the percentage of adults using marijuana was higher than that of conservative Floridia. Now over a decade later, with billions of tax dollars saved by Californians that did not go reefer wild, Florida now despite some of the most draconian marijuana penalties in the country have a higher percentage of adults using marijuana than that of California. Its long past the time to come up with sensible policies that do not bankrupt our economy, that do not destroy families and that do not withhold much needed medicine from people fighting for their lives against cruel, debilitating diseases. Please help: Go to to find out how!

Kurt Donley

Executive Director
Florida NORML

Fri, 10/13/2006 - 3:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The only thing this law will do is force drug users to use unsafe smoking utinsels. The smokers will now be making bongs out of plastic which I'm sure is great for their lungs. Cases of Alzheimers Disease will increase as smokers construct pipes out of aluminum cans.

When will the lawmakers consider the results (intended or not) of the laws they pass instead of the number of votes it might get them in the next election? When will the concerned voters realize that the Libertarian Party is the only political organization that is 100% against the Drug War?

Fri, 10/13/2006 - 7:01pm Permalink
Facter Mongos (not verified)

Why don't all you drug use advocates try a better line instead of the oft-repeated "everyone is doing drugs and they aren't bothering me so who cares" line? When a crack user goes into a "head shop" (the term itself denotes what they do, sell to "drug heads") the owner knows full well that the water pipe downstem, bushing adapter, glass tube or stem they are buying is for crack smoking. It is pretty easy to spot someone who smokes crack continuously and just as easy to spot a pot smoker the owner of the shop knows what he is doing. He is selling a drug addict a device which will be used to ingest drugs. There hasn't ever been a single case where police in any part of the country have charged someone selling these items and the court or the judge actually believed the store owner had no idea what the paraphernalia was used for. Store that sell this stuff are specialty retailers for only these items! It is hilarious how some of you actually think saying the words "for tobacco use only" means anything legal about it. You can tell as soon as you walk into the store what they are about. The problem in Florida is that the profits are so high on these items everyone wants to sell them in their stores so you have drug paraphernalia on the shelves of every store in coastal towns. That is akin to opening pawn shops selling used guns in low income, high crime neighborhoods. It is wrong, it is going too far and police and then courts are just not going to tolerate no matter how many people smoke pot.

Fri, 01/08/2010 - 3:14pm Permalink

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